EATON – After not getting the full county fair experience in 2020, the word “record” made its way into many people’s conversations regarding the 171st Preble County Fair.
Held Saturday, July 31 through Saturday, Aug. 7, attendance and participation at the annual event could not have pleased organizers more.
“The week was awesome,” Senior Fair Board President Clinnie Stevenson said this week. “We had record days every day. We had a lot of people here for everything. The amusements were great — they told us they had an awesome year. They probably had a record year for them since they’ve been here with us. All the vendors have made comments on how they were up this year.
“There were a lot of people here,” he continued. “We had a terrific year.”
Compared to other fairs in recent memory, Stevenson said 2021 was one of the most well-attended.
“I think, as far back as I can remember, this is probably the greatest crowd that we’ve had,” he said, adding that Garth Brooks’ fair concert in 1991 was the last time he remembers seeing the crowd being as big.
“I think it was the combination of not been open to the public last year, and then the public thinking maybe another shutdown was coming around. People wanted out. People wanted to do stuff. People wanted to see and enjoy the summer is to its fullest,” he said.
Stevenson said grandstand events were great as well.
“We had a record here with our rodeo crowd. We have never sold that many tickets for the rodeo,” he said. “We sold 1,500 tickets to that. Normally there would only be 900, maybe, if that. We had a good crowd for the tractor pulls.” Stevenson said the first Saturday demolition derby sold out, and the second Saturday’s event was close.
Regarding the new Bullen Equestrian Center, which hosted numerous Junior Fair events throughout the week as well as a Championship Draft Horse Pull, Stevenson said everybody loved it.
“We had people from everywhere thanking me all the time we walked back through there,” he said. “‘Thank you,’ you know, and ‘this is this is awesome.’ Even people that aren’t even showing, you know, older people that just come to watch the horse shows loved it.”
Some minor things needed were mentioned by visitors — according to Stevenson, a couple visitors noted the absence of infant changing tables in the women’s restroom at the arena. ‘They’re one of the tiny things that nobody even thought of when we put that in back there,” he said.
“We have a good group of people that help out with back there, helped out with making sure the trailers get parked right,” Stevenson said. “Camper parking went well. That saved a lot of spots out in the parking area.”
Overall, “Parking was our biggest problem this year,” Stevenson said. “With all the people it was tough. We were filling up the parking spots almost every day. The first Saturday, people had to park across the street and outside on the city streets because there was nowhere else to park in here.”
Stevenson also commended the Junior Fair Board for the work they did this year.
“They helped out with a lot of the shows,” he said. “And they participated really well.
“This is the first year that I can actually remember where there were so many showmanship shows that we would actually have to take a short break, because we had kids that were in a final drive in one and waiting for the final drive in another,” he said. “We had so many kids that were doing so well in their showmanship this year.”
Looking back at last year’s Junior Fair-only event, Stevenson said, as a business, it was hard.
“It was an awesome, Junior Fair show we had last year. But not having the public to bring in the revenue was really hard for us as a business,” he said. “For all the kids, it (2020) was great. And they all loved it. They really appreciated it. But they have to understand where we’re at. We have to have the money to put on these shows too.”
Stevenson thanked everyone for the support this year.
“Thanks to the public for being patient with us over the years, through this last year, to get things back to normal. And I’d really like to thank all the volunteers that stepped up and helped with putting all these shows on and helping make sure we got through all of them. And the sponsors were great this year, on helping with a lot of stuff, even after having a bad year last year, they really stepped up and helped out. Even our junior fair shows, we’ve had sponsors to come in and give us money to help put the shows on and that’s been great.
“I was amazed at how well it went,” Stevenson said of the 2021 fair as a whole. “I wasn’t shocked because I knew it was coming. But I was amazed at how well it did go. When you got eight record days, it is amazing.
“I would hope that we get to continue to have a full fair again next year, that we get through all this COVID stuff again without any issues and because that will make a difference,” Stevenson added, looking forward to 2022.